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February 20, 2007

Deuter – Aum

Filed under: Hype,Music — rkodrzy @ 6:20 pm

[Kuckuck Schallplatten; 1972]

This album sounds like when you keep waking up from dreaming and you can’t quite tell what’s reality and what’s part of your dreams. That alternate dimension between the real world and the dream world, where nothing is in focus and you merely catch fleeting glimpses of images as they roll past your mind’s eye. It is impossible to seperate the true memories of past experiences with the false ones that have been created by your twisted, half asleep brain.

Each song on Aum fades into silence (blackness) before continuing into the following track, creating the feeling that they are all seperate entities, unrelated to each other. Their similarities succeed in proving this notion wrong, however. Instead, all of the tracks are scattered pieces of a single experience. A glimpse of a calming medieval jam session with birds chirping delightfully in the background becomes audible in “Phoenix“, and then disappears as unobtrusively as it entered. In the title track, tribal drums fade in slowly, patter along for a while alongside a gloomy bass, only to fade away again into obscurity. When in the midst of one soundscape, all others are forgotten and the listener’s memory is limited almost exclusively to the current track, almost as if the previous ones had never existed.

There is a great variety of instruments used here, yet they all converge to create a similar mood. Droning sitars, plodding bongos, prancing flutes, dreary bass, icy synths, and a large variety of field recordings are thrown into the mix here, resulting in a good variety between different songs.

In the end, Aum is a bewildering listen. Turn the lights off, slip on some headphones, find a comfortable spot, and this album is guaranteed to paint vivid pictures in your mind of dark and curious places. All around some great proto-ambient stuff from early 1970’s Germany, when the country’s music scene was ridiculously creative and at the top of its game.

February 19, 2007

Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice- Gipsy Freedom

Filed under: Hype,Music — tmonk @ 7:29 pm

[5RC; 2006]

For their first proper album of 2006, Wooden Wand (aka James Toth) and his usual band/collective/traveling gypsy troupe the Vanishing Voice, forwent their typical lo-fi sound in order to compensate for their ever expanding field of influences. This is a band that moves fast, not just in sheer volume of recorded output but also in the ground covered by each release. So yeah, they’re from New York and they create what could be probably be described as “freak-folk,” but just like the countless other similarly labeled bands they definitely move beyond the common ground some listeners seem to so conveniently find.

Opener “Friend, That Just Isn’t So” isn’t necessarily a summary of what’s to come but isn’t too far off the mark. Nothing but a relaxed, free flowing sax, Heidi Diehl’s occasionally over-earnest vocals, and plenty of silent, empty space purify your emotional palette a little in preparation for the journeys ahead. The lyrics aren’t particularly thought provoking, but they’re pretty and mystical which is more or less the point.

From here on out, most of the album’s runtime is comprised of long improv tracks, made up of haunting woodwinds, sinister guitar sounds, a loosely bound percussion section, and the occasional singing. While they sometimes run the gambit of crossing over to the wrong side of the introspective/self-indulgent line, the songs generally remain just that, songs. The fact that each of these longer tracks seem to have some sort of guiding purpose statement, individual to each, certainly helps. “Didn’t It Rain” resembles a midnight forage into some dark, marshy swamp. The song slowly, casually builds up to its climax when soaring group vocals finally kick in, as if accidentally stumbling into some tribe’s campfire ritual. The laid-back electric guitars of “Dead End Day With Ceasar” virtually close the album considering their occupation of 21 of the album’s final 23 minutes, different sounds chiming in once in a while around the main riff, creating a unique type of solo out of a multitude of different sounds.

Those aren’t the only types of songs on here though. On “Don’t Love The Liar” the band belts out a down home toe-tapper with a slight Art Bears twist to it. “Dread Effigy” sounds like Nirvana covering some old folk singer you know you should recognize but probably never will. More than anything else, it’s the diversity and ambition of this album that sets it above the bottomless sea of noise/drone/quantity-above-quality improvisers and makes Gipsy Freedom something really special.

February 18, 2007

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Filed under: Hype,Music — mooks @ 10:03 pm

[Merge; 2007]

Neon Bible is the long anticipated sophomore album from The Arcade Fire. The Arcade Fire released an album called Funeral in 2004 which immediately garnered seemingly universal praise. The album was a grandiose statement about love and death, and when it worked, it worked in an over-the-top-for-the-hell-of-it fashion and maybe even got you to sing along. When the songwriting couldn’t keep up with the rather demanding style, it would often induce vomiting (‘Crown of Love,’ anyone?). Nevertheless, the album smacked of promise and inspiration and for the past three years ‘indie’ dudes everywhere have let speculation fester, wondering if this particular Montreal act could live up to this promise with their sophomore album. Sadly, they could not.

That’s not to say this isn’t a good album; I actually think it’s a better effort than Funeral. The words are fine, centering around anti-war sentiment and religious anxiety, in equally epic doses. It doesn’t really have a bad song (though ‘Black Waves/Bad Vibrations’ comes close) and it has its highlights (such as ‘Antichrist Television Blues’, which is the best track on Neon Bible despite having a horrible, horrible name, along with the delightful ‘No Cars Go’) but it still fails to deliver. A definite improvement on Funeral’s frustrating inconsistency, but not the sensation we’ve all been waiting for. If you dig Funeral, there’s no reason you won’t dig this as well. You’re going to hear a little less guitar and a lot more pounding-pianos, but the melodrama and the sweeping melodies are still there.

One thing I do miss is a true Regine ballad. ‘In the Backseat’ was one of my favorite tracks on Funeral.

February 4, 2007

Akron/Family Live Review: December 10th, 2006

Filed under: Akron!,Music — mooks @ 3:52 am

I saw Akron/Family almost two months ago. I saw them perform and met them in person before the show. I’d like to communicate this experience by focusing on the really important stuff – the stuff that had a serious impact – which will be pretty easy since, after two months, it’s all I can remember.

I saw them on December 10th, 2006. They played at a bar, the 12 Galaxies, in San Francisco. I am only twenty years old, so I had emailed Miles (the band’s bass player) before the show to ask if there was anyway I would get a chance to see them. Miles was quick to reply, saying he and the band would do what they could. I arrived at the bar on the 10th a good two hours before the set. The band arrived shortly after I did, in a big white van. I approached who turned out to be Seth and introduced myself. I met the rest of the guys shortly after. I cannot emphasize enough how natural this was. This was my first time meeting someone I really admire, let alone a band of them. They were ordinary, exuberant, easy going guys. In other words, they were exactly the kind of guys their music would suggest. It was very easy to converse with them.

Under the pretense that I was carrying equipment (and I actually was – I got to carry the ‘Running, Returning’ banjo!), I entered the venue and waited by the stage for the next four hours for them to start. I watched them sound check a few new songs (as well as Neil Young’s ‘Tonight’s the Night’). I got a chance to see them interact as a group and it was clear to see Akron/Family is going to be around for a while. If not for the stage, there would be no way to tell this was even a band. It was like the four music dorks at a party who sit in the corner after picking up the host’s instruments, jamming along whether or not anyone is listening. But holy shit did these music dorks ever seem focused. I could tell, when they took up their instruments and played, that they had a perfect mutual vision and that each one was equally determined to follow that vision.

When they finally got on stage for their set (after tuning up to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’), there was quite a lot of expectation. And right from the opening noise of ‘Moment’ all of those expectations were utterly destroyed. Amiable and relaxed as they seemed before, these guys are a presence on stage. A huge one. The cacophony of ‘Moment’ was like a full frontal assault on all the senses. The whole bar vibrated, destruction filled your ears, and the band leaped about the stage, smashing their instruments, refusing to let the audience breathe. The songs burst forth in a constant torrent. They were barely songs anymore. It’s impossible to describe what they become live. They constantly evolve, from peaceful ambient interludes (with all four members on a different woodwind) to the floor-stomping hum of ‘Running, Returning’. I remember specifically the moment i realized the fifteen minute jam I just heard was a variation on ‘Blessing Force’.

The best moment of the night was the performance of ‘Suchness’. I was always fond of the end of that song, but I didn’t think it would ever been replicated live. Boy, was I wrong! I remember the moment I realized they were going for it. The song was already respectably rockin’, with the whole band chugging away, before Seth bent down for a brief moment and fiddled with the equipment. When he came back up I realized what he had done and what he was about to do and I almost choked on my stomach. His guitar was bigger than anything I’ve ever heard. The bar couldn’t contain the sound. It loomed over all of us, ominous and terrifying, crushing us beneath it’s weight. And immediately after this exhausting ordeal, Dana’s snare announced the approach of a fan favorite, and the whole crowd threw up their hands and joined in ‘Raising the Sparks’. It’s a wonderful song to hear on record – to hear the four members to carry the song with their voices, alternating the title between them – but when you have those same four members along with eighty or so people, all of them screaming those words at different times, it’s something quite different. This kind of interaction was not uncommon. The whole audience seemed to get on stage during the closer, ‘The Rider’, and each took up a different instrument – from recorders to wooden boxes – to create this teeming mass of energy that vaguely resembled a song. As the audience got to the closing chant, it seemed clear what the lyrics meant. The band, the audience, even the drunks in the back, were all on that spaceship. I know it sounds corny as hell but damn it if it isn’t true.

Akron/Family must be seen live. To see how they play these songs will give you comprehensive insight into what they mean and why they exist in the first place.

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